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The Work-Life Balance & Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023

The Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 aims to acknowledge the significance of family life and facilitate a better balance between employees' home and work lives. On the 7th of March the ‘Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Request Flexible Working and Remote Working’ (the Code) was published. Publishing this code brought the right to request flexible and remote working into effect.


Right to Request Remote Work:

Arguably the most discussed aspect of the legislation is the right of employees to request remote work arrangements. Although the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) consulted on this matter during last summer, the anticipated Code of Practice has yet to be released, delaying the commencement of these provisions. The Act outlines several requirements for such requests, including a qualification period of 6 months' continuous employment, submission of requests at least 8 weeks before the proposed commencement, and employer response within 4 weeks (extendable by up to 8 weeks if needed). Employers are obliged to consider both parties' needs and the provisions of the Code when responding to requests, providing grounds for refusal if necessary. Additionally, employers have the authority to terminate remote working arrangements under certain circumstances, with limited recourse to the WRC.


Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements for Caring Purposes:

This new form of leave, which is yet to commence, applies to employees providing care or support to eligible individuals, including children, spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings, or other household members with serious medical conditions. Requests for this leave must meet specific criteria and follow a similar process to remote work requests, with limited recourse to the WRC.


Recommended Action for Employers:

Employers are advised to review their existing contracts, policies, and procedures to ensure compliance with the new legislation. The Code of Practice accompanying the Act provides guidance for employers and employees, aiming to support fair and objective decision-making. Employers should also consider any legal obligations, such as those under the Employment Equality Acts, to avoid discrimination in handling requests. Compliance with the Code will be considered by the WRC in case of disputes, emphasising the importance of adhering to its guidance.


Flexible Working:

Flexible working involves adjusting an employee's working hours or patterns, including remote or reduced hours, to accommodate caregiving responsibilities or personal circumstances. Employees meeting certain criteria can request flexible working arrangements, subject to consideration by the employer and adherence to statutory procedures outlined in the Act.


Remote Working:

Remote working entails carrying out some or all of an employee's work at a location other than the employer's premises, without changing working hours or duties. All employees have the right to request remote work arrangements, with specific requirements and procedures outlined in the Act. Employers must consider such requests and adhere to the Code of Practice, with provisions for termination under certain circumstances.


Addressing Concerns and Making Complaints:

The Act encourages internal resolution of concerns, with larger organisations advised to designate HR personnel as points of contact for flexible or remote working issues. Employees may lodge complaints with the WRC within specific timeframes, focusing on procedural compliance rather than the merits of the employer's decision. Failure to maintain records of approved arrangements may result in penalties.


In conclusion, the Act introduces significant changes aimed at promoting work-life balance and accommodating employees' caregiving responsibilities. Employers play a crucial role in implementing these provisions in a fair and compliant manner, with adherence to the accompanying Code of Practice essential for resolving disputes and ensuring legal compliance.

About the author: Sinéad Leahy is a trainee solicitor working with Dermot G. O’Donovan Solicitors.


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